Atlantis finally demated – returns to OPF-1

by Chris Bergin

A rather wet Atlantis has made it back into her Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF-1) after being demated from the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) she piggybacked to Florida on top of.

Orbiters are usually demated the same day they arrive, although Atlantis had to wait until 3:15 pm local time, before being towed the short distance back to the OPF from the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) for safing and post flight processing.

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Although no in-depth processing information has been made available today – due to the July 4th holiday – engineers were working on demating Atlantis as of last night, with high powered lights being placed around the orbiter/SCA duo to aid continued work.

No notes of an actual problem had been mentioned – although soaked by a downpour that occurred over the SLF area not long after she arrived at the MDM (Mate De-Mate) facility.

Confirming Atlantis had been successfully demated Wednesday afternoon, United Space Alliance updated information to note ‘At the SLF: OV-104 (Atlantis) is being towed to OPF-1 at this time,’ at 3:15pm Eastern.

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Around 50 engineers are working through the holiday at KSC, helping safe Atlantis inside OPF-1. Several weeks of post flight processing will take place, in tandem with pre-launch processing for Atlantis next mission, STS-122.

That December 6 (NET – No Earlier Than) mission will see Atlantis deliver the European built Columbus module to the International Space Station (ISS), along with the ICC-Lite. The mission will also carry out the crew rotation of Expedition 16 Flight Engineer Daniel Tani.
STS-122 was set to be Atlantis’ final mission to the ISS, with only STS-125 – to service the Hubble Space Telescope – remaining before her retirement. However, that decision was reversed last month, adding two more missions from the current manifest, which keeps Atlantis flying until early 2010.
In other news, Endeavour has been successfully mated to ET-117 on Wednesday. She has now been detached from the sling which carried her over from the transfer aisle in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), ahead of STS-118’s August 7 launch date.
‘VAB HB1 S0004. STS 118 / OV105. Mate complete – platform work ongoing,’ noted USA information. ‘Orbiter sling is static in the transfer aisle.’

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